Keita Williams: Success Bully and Podcaster

Born: August 20, 1979, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (But I don’t look a day over 27.)
Educational Background: Bachelor’s in communication studies from Northwestern University
High Point: Launching my business
Low Point: Working through my health challenges

What do you do for a living?

I am a professional butt kicker and the founder and chief strategist of Success Bully, an elite accountability practice dedicated to supporting visionaries of all types in their goal attainment across both their personal and professional lives.

How do you define success?

By impact. At this stage, how many and how profoundly I can.

Who do you think of when you think of success?

My older sister, Ayanna. She embodies strength, intelligence and determination.

What do you love about your work?

I get like an endorphin rush when one of my clients, listeners or team members achieves their goals. It brings me joy to touch someone’s life that way. It is an incredible blessing and responsibility.

Aside from money, what else have you gained from your job?

Clear vision, purpose and more confidence.

For what are you most grateful?

I am most grateful for finally figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. I am thankful every single day that I get to impact people in a very tangible way. It’s powerful to play a part in helping others achieve their goals. POWERFUL!

What inspires you?

A good comeback story.

Which is worse, failing or never going for what you want?

Never going for what you want. I have learned so much from failure.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned?

My biggest asset and adversary is me. There is no one outside with picket signs and tiki torches protesting my future success. I’m the only holdup.

What’s been on your mind most lately?

Pacing myself. My vision will take the 3Cs: commitment, consistency and communication over time.

What is your No. 1 goal you want to accomplish for the year?

I want to launch ActionCon, a conference dedicated to less talking and more action.

ActionCon is a platform for creating a systemized approach to sustain forward-moving action and will be rooted in three pillars: clear goal setting, accountability and structured action.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

The most influential person in my life is my Mother. We affectionately call her The Notorious M.O.M. She is the right mix of tough love and championship-level cheerleading. I have to share my favorite Mom-ism right now: “Cream always rises to the top, and, Baby, you’re cream!” What my Mom neglected to share was how painfully long the cream and milk separation process takes.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I am situationally funny. Not stand-up comedy funny. If you put me on stage and told me to “be funny,” I would probably live out my black child of the ’90s nightmare and be booed off stage a la Showtime at the Apollo.

What scares you most?

I would say that my biggest fear is that I would live out my days in a state of insignificance. I was deathly ill about seven years ago. During that time, I realized that up until that point I had lived a pretty insignificant life. I hadn’t had any significant firsts, I hadn’t used my gifts and talents to help others, and I had the nerve to be broke and broken. My eulogy would have been like a paragraph and a half of my family attempting to make me sound interesting and getting my graduation dates wrong. I am on a different path now…

Would you care to share your illness and how it motivated you to change your life?

I developed blood clots in both of my lungs in 2011 caused by my birth control and sedentary lifestyle in 2011.

I focused on my health and lost over 100 pounds. Unfortunately, after my last trip to China this past June, I developed blood clots again. I have had to push pause to focus on my health. It derailed my plans for the summer. Interestingly enough, I have had plenty of time to reassess my goals and vision.

I feel like I have to work smarter not harder since I have less energy. It has been a blessing.

What do you feel your impact is on those around you? What would you like it to be?

I feel like I’m a lightning rod of practical encouragement. I light it up! I will lovingly call you on your BS, but also give you some tools to straighten that shit out. I hope to create a ripple effect on everyone around me, where they feel good and empowered, and then they pass that feeling along to someone else.

When you make sacrifices for your work, do you tell people or keep it to yourself?

I have learned rather quickly the average person doesn’t care to know about the behind-the-scenes, the sacrifices and the process. They care about the finished product.

While everyone is asleep on this flight to Hong Kong (what’s happening right now), I am working. At the Memorial Day barbecue, I had to ask my friends to get up and give me back my portable folding chairs because I had to get home and get back to work. Very few people have witnessed me staying up all night to finish pulling timestamps for the podcast followed by me climbing my nearly 6-foot frame into my closet to record lead-ins and outros.

I know what I am called and compelled to do. The long hours, being so far out of my comfort zone on a daily basis and the challenges are all part of the journey. Eventually, I will share it in my autobiography.

Have you started on your autobiography? Any thoughts on its title?

I have not started… but I have the title: Soul Food & Sauerkraut.

What piece of literature has influenced you the most?

Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. My older sister received a copy of it as a grade school graduation present. I acquired it and kept it for decades. I have read it many times during different stages of my life. As I have matured and got those life lessons under my belt, the book has taken on a new meaning each time I pick it up. I have become more connected to the human emotion and vivid storytelling. Everyone has a backstory that defines them. We have to listen and be open-minded.

Where is your favorite place?

My Grandma’s kitchen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In conversation do you tend to talk or listen more?

I prefer to listen as long as I can ask questions.

What are you looking for when you have a conversation with someone? What topics do you want to discuss?

I am looking for two things. I want them to get real and cozy. I enjoy hearing about their process/journey from the space of genuineness. The second thing I am hoping to find is what can I learn from this person at this moment. What’s my take-home lesson here?

When is the last time you cried and why?

The last time I cried I was on the phone with one of my longtime friends, Gwenna. I was feeling tired and frustrated. She asked me how I was “really doing.” I ugly cried, Kim Kardashian-style in nude lipstick and everything. I cried because she cared enough to probe, and it felt good at that moment to be vulnerable. A full-on snot fest ensued followed by some sister-friend encouragement. She gently reminded me how far we both have come in the last year, and then I was back in the game.

What was your childhood dream?

I wanted to be a talk show host. I used to line up my siblings or stuffed animals to answer my burning questions.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a while? If so, what is it and why haven’t you?

Yes, television! I have always wanted a talk show. When I was a child, I would line up my sisters, dolls and stuffed animals for interviews. We would make up storylines… It was legit. Why haven’t I? Because I am delightfully human. I have a few minor hang-ups about on-camera work. Here’s where I kick my ass: I would tell my clients, “That thing that scares you the most… that’s the thing you have to do.” So, keep an eye out for The Keita Show. It has a nice ring to it, right?!?!?

Tell us more about what you envision for The Keita Show.

I want to go beyond the touchy, feely “live your best life” stuff. I am obsessed with the how. I want to share how my guests have achieved their goals, like the tactical planning and execution. It would be an expansion on what I do with my podcast.

When was the last time you tried something new? What was it?

I recently was cast in a national commercial. That was interesting with all of the lights, production team and incredible snacks. I felt like it was foreshadowing for The Keita Show. It was awesome to see all the skilled professionals working toward the finished product. I was surprised by how right it felt… I wasn’t nervous at all. I felt in my element.

If you could take a one-month trip anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, where would you go and what would you do?

I have always wanted to take a month off for a moment in black history. I would like to trace my family legacy from our Southern roots to our African origin. It would be painful, but there is so much history that was not saved or shared. I must know for me.

What is your favorite comfort food?

Peanut butter right out the jar shamelessly eaten off the back of a spoon. Preferably, over the kitchen sink.

Why over the kitchen sink?

To not make a mess. LOL

What is your favorite food to prepare?

I like to stress bake. When I need to blow off some steam or refocus my attention, I bake cookies. My favorite (and don’t hate me for this) is Laura Bush’s Cowboy Cookies. They are a crowd pleaser.

We recently discovered Netflix’s Nailed It! How would you fare in a baking competition?

I think I would own it on the taste factor. Frosting and decorating is not my ministry.

What are you currently reading or is the last book you read?

I am working my way through You Can Read Anyone by David J. Lieberman, Ph.D.

What’s your biggest takeaway so far?

Listen for the context clues in every conversation.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve read online recently?

Dark chocolate is good for you.

What is a song, album or playlist that everyone should hear?

Sade’s Diamond Life.

If you were guaranteed honest answers to two questions, what would you ask and to whom?

My Father died when I was three, so I never had the opportunity to have any memorable conversations with him.
1. Why did you name me Keita? I have heard various family folktales around this including it was inspired by an African history course taken at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
2. Are you proud of me?

I would also ask Oprah:
1. When did you know you were “Oprah?”
2. How do you inspire a team to work toward your big vision?

What are your favorite apps/tools that help you do what you do?

A paper calendar and G Suite. I am also into the Pomodoro Technique, so I use that app pretty often for focused sprints.

What do you do to recharge yourself?

I take 24 hours off every week to do whatever the hell I want by myself. Sometimes I get dressed up and take myself out on a hot date. Other times, it’s bubble baths and unapologetically drinking champagne. I have to keep something for me.

How do you keep track of what you’ve done?

Three ways:

  1. I have an informal board of advisors that hold me accountable for my quarterly goals.
  2. Rather than a vision board, I have an accomplishment board. When I hit a milestone, I add something that symbolizes that achievement. It might be a nametag from a speaking engagement or a thank-you card from a client.
  3. My large 2 feet by 4 feet paper quarterly calendar. I map out the quarter and track it.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Less thinking, more doing.

What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?

Understand value.

Do you have a mantra or quote that guides your life?

Let’s get after it! If I want something, I have to get out of my head and off of my butt and get it.

What is your most significant accomplishment? Is there anything you hope to do even greater?

Starting my business, Success Bully. I have thought about this concept for years in various wrappers. I am proud that I started.

I hope to scale my business into a global media empire that empowers and inspires people to be the best version of themselves through action and accountability.

What has been your biggest disappointment in life, and how did you handle it?

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I was a chubby baby, child, teenager, young adult and a grown-ass woman. I will lose the weight and then never thoroughly learn the lesson to keep the weight off.

It is a very humbling experience to keep having to get back on the wagon. To handle it, I know that I work best with a team to get my weight stabilized. I have put together my weight loss dream team and will put in the work. My entire family is doing a weight loss challenge right now that includes a cash prize and bragging rights. The thought of beating my sisters in a friendly competition has me extra motivated.

How would you like to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as contagious. Encouragement, vision, joy, success; all of that is contagious. I hope to spread that to as many people as possible.

I also have a life goal of being the frisky old lady at church that hugs the young men one moment past proper.

And as someone who is wildly photogenic.

When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

I will have done more than I have said.

What is happiness to you?

Strategically and joyfully kicking butt.

Who would you like to answer these questions?

New York Times best-selling author Ijeoma Oluo. I met her once at an event in Seattle, and I would have loved to spend more time getting to know her as a person and scholar.

Connect with Keita Williams

Visit Keita Williams’ website

Follow her on Instagram and Twitter

Listen to the Success Bully podcast on iTunes

Purchase the Success Bully goal-setting Work It Sheet